Mike Matheny made his MLB debut in 1994 for the Milwaukee Brewers, and went on to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants before being named the Cardinals manager back in 2012.
After retiring from the game as a player, and before taking over an MLB franchise as a manager, Matheny spent some time as a youth coach for his kids' team. To get the season started on the right foot, Matheny decided to write a letter to the parents of his players detailing his expectations and goals for the team with brutal honesty, the baseball and softball website Mac-N-Seitz published the piece in its entirety.
He wasted no time dishing that brutal honesty as the second sentence in the letter reads; "...the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents."
Matheny goes on to note how he expects the players to dress, conduct themselves on the field and in the dugout, how he will teach the mental component of the game, and that they'll probably lost a handful of games this season as they see how they stack up against local competition.
Take a look at a few of the excerpts from Matheny's letter below.
I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat. I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans. My main goals are as follows:
(1) to teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way
(2) to be a positive impact on them as young men, and
(3) do all of this with class.
We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires no matter what.
With that being said, I need to let you know where I stand. I have no hidden agenda. I have no ulterior motive other than what I said about my goals. I also need all of you to know that my priorities in life will most likely be a part of how I coach, and the expectations I have for the boys. My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone's throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, and I hope to continue it in any endeavor that I get into. I am just trying to get as many potential issues out in the open from the beginning. I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement. I think if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game; they would say "NOTHING". Once again, this is ALL about the boys. I believe that a little league parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and "Come on, let's go, you can do it", which just adds more pressure to the kids. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already. You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support.
The best situation for all of us is for you to plan on handing these kids over to me and the assistant coaches when you drop them off, and plan on them being mine for the 2 or so hours that we have scheduled for a game, or the time that we have scheduled for the practice. I would like for these boys to have some responsibility for having their own water, not needing you to keep running to the concession stand, or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty, or hungry, or too hot, and I would appreciate if you would share this information with other invited guests...like grandparents. If there is an injury, obviously we will get you to help, but besides that, let's pretend that they are at work for a short amount of time and that you have been granted the pleasure of watching. I will have them at games early so we can get stretched and loosened up, and I will have a meeting with just the boys after the game. After the meeting, they are all yours again. As I am writing this, I sound like the little league Nazi, but I believe that this will make things easier for everyone involved.
I truly believe that the family is the most important institution in the lives of these guys. With that being said, l think that the family events are much more important than the sports events. I just ask that you are considerate of the rest of the team and let the team manager, and myself know when you will miss, and to let us know as soon as possible. I know that there will be times when I am going to miss either for family reasons, for other commitments. If your son misses a game or a practice, it is not the end of the world, but there may be some sort of repercussion, just out of respect for the kids that put the effort into making it. The kind of repercussions could possibly be running, altered playing time, or position in the batting order.
Matheny wraps up his letter by asking parents to "let him now as soon as possible whether or not this is a commitment that you and your son want to make," before signing off.
Some parents might have been a bit taken aback after reading the lengthy letter, while others may have found it refreshingly honest, but one thing is certain, they know exactly where Matheny stood as he took the reigns of that youth program and while you may not want to take that exact approach with a letter to the parents of your program in the future, he provides a solid template to follow.